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Home-Made Car, The (1963)

Courtesy of BP Video Library

Main image of Home-Made Car, The (1963)
35mm, 27 min, colour
DirectorJames Hill
Production CompanyJames Hill Productions
SponsorBritish Petroleum
ProducerJames Hill
CinematographyAlan Hewison
EditorAnn Chegwidden
MusicRon Grainer

A young man builds a car from spare parts and wins the attention of a beautiful neighbour.

Show full synopsis

Like director James Hill's earlier Oscar-winning short for BP, Giuseppina (1959), this is a light comedy with a featured BP service station providing exposure for the sponsor. While Giuseppina was marked by its restrained use of language, The Home-Made Car goes further, featuring no dialogue whatsoever. Alongside its stylistic effect this afforded the film easy passage to an international audience, a useful bonus for a multinational corporation.

BP's advertising for the film openly describes the featured rag and bone man as a 'sly Steptoe character', while also describing the story as 'Goonish'. In fact, the film's physical and visual comedy resembles neither Steptoe and Son (BBC, 1963-65; 1970-74) nor the Goons so much as it does silent farce.

The rag and bone man's appearance is accompanied by a pastiche quotation from 'Old Ned' the theme tune to Steptoe and Son, a licence afforded by the fact that the theme's composer, Ron Grainer, was also responsible for the music here.

The film gained a wide UK audience after being regularly broadcast as a trade test colour transmission during the run up to the start of BBC colour transmissions. It was apparently shown 182 times between 1962 and 1973. A subsequent nostalgic cult following on the internet has tracked down the film's locations and generated a wikipedia entry. While the film itself indulges in nostalgia for the Bull nosed Morris - the automobile of the title - contemporary audiences will find as much pleasure in the other classic cars featured: the cad's Austin Healey 3000 and a dignitary's Rolls Royce.

Winner at the 1963 Berlin Film Festival of the Silver Bear for the best short film and the Youth Film Award for the Best Short Film Suitable for Young People, The Home Made Car was also nominated for an Academy Award in the Short Subject category.

James Piers Taylor

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Video Clips
Complete film (27:17)
Grainer, Ron (1924-1981)
British Petroleum films